It’s certainly been quite a week, (and a crazy few months) for the American people with one of the most divisive campaigns in history finally coming to a shocking close. Whether you were happy with the outcome or not, there’s a collective sigh of relief that at least its over. I think it was very damaging for people to observe the rhetoric and behavior over the last several months, especially our kids who on some level were aware of a lot of it. I have been watching the post-election protocol carefully over the last couple of days, and I think there is much to be learned and shared with our children.
Whether you are 8 years old and you lost while playing a board game with a friend, or 38 years old and lost out on getting a position that your co-worker got instead- it’s hard to lose. There are justifiable feelings of anger, disappointment, resentment, and possibly even depression, but the real question is, how do you respond despite all the feelings? How do I treat the winner? What do I say to, or about him? Do I ignore him, bad mouth him to others, or try to hurt him in some other way to let him know I am deeply disappointed and not happy with him?
In some sports, there is a beautiful custom after a game, where both teams line up facing each other and then high-five each player as both lines walk forward past each other. It sends the message that there are no hard feelings, we are professional, and whether we won or lost, we are all gracious adults who bear in mind that it’s about the larger picture of how you play the game. I have seen kids do it at Little League games, and I believe that having them go through the motions of congratulating the other team, imbues them with a sense of good sportsmanship and gracious winning, as well as gracious losing. We have to model this type of graciousness for our children. We have to train them to say, “good game- thanks for playing” to their opponent no matter what the outcome. Otherwise we run the risk of raising entitled kids who don’t have the resilience to pick themselves up and move on after a disappointment in life.
After an election race in which there was so much mudslinging and exchange of choice words both to, and about, the other candidate, one would expect the candidates to ignore each other (at best), or continue exchanging barbs fueled by the pain of loss or the smugness of victory. But that is not what protocol dictated. Similar to the post-game high five, the loser called the winner to concede the race and congratulate him, and then each candidate gave a gracious speech reminding Americans of the importance of unity in the country. Shortly thereafter, the outgoing president also gives a congratulatory speech and then extends an invitation to the new president to come to his house for a chat. How do these people turn on a dime and have a friendly chat in their living room, when just a few days before they had nothing nice to say about the other person? The answer is that it’s about shifting focus to the larger picture. That picture is the new reality. They may not be happy about it, but they must bear in mind the greater good of the United States. And for that reason, they must set aside their differences, their pride, and their shame and be able to work together for a greater cause and purpose.
I think of this difficult, but necessary shift when I work with families that have a deep-rooted conflict embedded in their relationships. There are parents and children, or siblings, who have not spoken to each other in years due to a painful disagreement, or a slight to their honor that occurred years ago. People bear grudges for years in peer relationships as well. In some cases the warring parties can’t even recall the details of the fight, but hold onto the resentment like it’s some sort of lifeline. In almost all instances, the key is to shift the focus from the hurt, shame, and preservation of pride, and remember that there is a greater good. It could be shalom bayis and the importance of maintaining a close-knit, loving family whenever possible, or the larger goal of shalom within Klal Yisrael. As hard as it may be, we need to learn to let things go, set aside our ego, and model kindness and graciousness for our own benefit and the benefit of those around us.
One of the most rewarding parts of my job is when the boys help each other. Baruch Hashem, I witnessed several instances of that this week. One of the boys got a job, and within a few days he was helping his friend get a job at the same company. Another boy needed help writing his resume and he and his friend sat together in the drop-in center working on it. At the same time, another boy was busy calling his friend to see if he was coming to daven in shul. It’s heartwarming to see how the kids care for each other and want to be part of their friend’s success. These kids grasped that it doesn’t detract from your success or happiness if someone else is also successful. On the contrary, helping someone else achieve their goal builds you into a better person with the self-confidence to reach higher in your own dreams and aspirations.
Have a Good Shabbos!
Rabbi Gavriel Hershoff